Mercury

 

Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers
Mercury Program - 2012
 

Introduction

Mercury (chemical element Hg) is a potent neuro-toxin that is particularly dangerous to the developing brain of the fetus and young child. Mercury exposure can occur through the ingestion of foods containing mercury (mainly fish), from mercury-containing products and from contaminated air and water.
 
Recognizing the seriousness of this threat to the health of our citizens, the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers asked their environmental policy and health officials in 1997 to develop a regional program to reduce mercury emissions and address the threat posed by mercury to our citizenry. The resultant NEG/ECP Mercury Action Plan was adopted by the Governors and Premiers in 1998, and under the direction of the NEG/ECP has been actively implemented since that time.
 
The NEG/ECP Mercury Program
 
The Mercury Task Force was formed in 1998 with the adoption of the NEG/ECP Mercury Action Plan. It’s purpose is to oversee the implementation of the regional mercury program, initiate programs, standards and research/policy/technical work to achieve the goals of the Plan, report regularly to the NEG/ECP on the status of mercury initiatives in the region and new mercury issues, and otherwise lead the regional discussion on mercury policy and science.
 
 
The NEG/ECP mercury program has been phenomenally successful over the years. In its first five years, it achieved its ambitious target of a 50% reduction in anthropogenic (man-made) mercury emissions in the region, and is on track to realize its 75% reduction goal for 2010 (vs. mid-nineties emission levels). The Mercury Action Plan was a seminal document in the development of the North American Regional Action Plan on Mercury (NARAP II), as well as the mercury programs of such organizations as the Circumpolar Convention and the United Nations (Environmental Programs – UNEP). 
 
                                                    Regional Mercury Emission
                                                                       (New England & Eastern Canada)
                                                                                          Pounds/year
           
 
The leadership of the Governors and Premiers on the mercury issue, as well as the work of Task Force, have been recognized by numerous organizations (such as the U.S. EPA) over the years. The state and provincial representatives work closely with other organizations involved in mercury issues in the region, such as the U.S. EPA, Environment Canada, NESCAUM, NEWMOA, NEIWPCC and the CEC.
 
Recent Work and Current Projects
 
The Task Force is currently engaged with updating the regional mercury emission inventory in order to prepare a reliable assessment of the program’s progress in reaching its 2010 emission reduction target (75% vs. mid-nineties level). As the graphic at right indicates, preliminary estimates put the region close to its target.
 
The Task Force is also continuing to work with the dental sector to reduce mercury emissions from dental waste, which is estimated to account for about 50% of the mercury in sewage sludge. The region’s ambitious goal of a 95% reduction in mercury in dental waste relative to mid-nineties levels appears to have been achieved.
 
Additionally, the Mercury Task Force is engaged with advocacy on federal mercury legislation, identification of new sources of mercury, and other projects related to the programs identified in the Mercury Action Plan.
 
Documents
 
Some NEG/ECP Mercury-related documents include: